Goodbye to glaciers?
February 4, 2008
BRECKENRIDGE ” Ecologist Dr. Dan Fagre has watched glaciers shrink for nearly 20 years in Glacier National Park in Montana, where he works as a research scientist, and Saturday night he shared his findings with a small group at the Breckenridge Recreation Center in a talk titled “Cascading Ecological Effects of Clilmate Change in the Rocky Mountains.”
“In 1850, there were 150 glaciers in what is now Glacier National Park,” he said. “Now there are fewer than 26.”
Glaciers ” slow-moving “rivers” of ice ” store significant amounts of fresh water, and people everywhere need their water for survival. According to Fagre, the disappearance of glaciers could have a far greater impact on society than many anticipate.
“Fifty percent of the globe depends on fresh water from mountains,” he told the group. “In the arid West, it’s more like 87 percent.” And water, not oil, is going to be the primary resource the world will compete for, he added.
Hotter summers, warmer winters, earlier snow melt and fewer and smaller avalanches will also effect enormous change in the alpine environment. The disappearance of avalanche chutes, as well as the decrease in the height of mountain snowpack will discourage biodiversity, making it much harder for species like the grizzly bear and the mountain goat to survive.
Fagre presented his findings without alarmism. At times, despite his grim litany of unpleasant climate changes, he even appeared optimistic, especially when describing the increased level of international cooperation among scientists.
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“If you go back to 15 years ago, what we know about this planet is a thousand-fold,” he said. “When we need to learn something quickly, we can.”
Frisco resident Sharon Siler braved the inclement weather to hear Fagre’s talk.
“I’m not a screaming tree-hugger or anything,” she said. “I’m just a concerned person.”
For more information on Breck’s Nature Series, visit http://www.townofbreckenridge.com.